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What Makes Donald Trump Uncomfortable? A Statistical Analysis

So let’s get the headline out of the way. Donald Trump is not at all comfortable discussing God. That’s based on more than three hours of video covering more than 424 distinct segments spanning more than 200 events.

That’s why you probably clicked here. Now, you get a data science explainer before you get the data. We’re so bait-and-switch.

As part of a set of new features we’re deploying (see our Emotion Subtitles), we generated a huge amount of data from our new approach to Voice Stress Analysis. Each second of audio and video gets individually analyzed, as well as 10-second segments, sequential segments, and the entire speech, interview or press conference.

This compilation opened up an interesting opportunity for analysis. Since our data is extensively tagged and structured, we could document, statistically, exactly what makes him relax, and what makes him tense. So we thought: cool.

A Word about Voice Stress Analysis

You’ll read a lot about voice stress analysis. So let’s address one thing here: it’s not a lie detector test. This is hotly debated, and we prefer to stick with the known. It has not been proven definitively that increases in voice stress indicate lies. If a person believes a lie, they will be relaxed. If a person steps on a tack, stress will increase even if telling the truth.

What this does definitely detect is a level of comfort, stress and/or anxiety. The higher the frequency (due to muscles contracting, including muscles in the neck that affect the voice box, thus the frequency), the greater the indication of stress. By measuring patterns when this occurs, we can identify statements and topics where a person is not comfortable with what they are saying. Coupled with identification the underlying feelings and measuring factors such as word choice and rate of speech, among several dozen others (we gather 115 datapoints per word), it’s a powerful way to uncover how someone feels about what they are saying.

It doesn’t tell you WHY they’re stressed or anxious. They just are. When used in an individual conversation, you don’t have context. The person can just be having a bad day. Or a great day.

That’s why the next part is important: we have hundreds of hours of Trump documented, transcribed and keyworded. A bad day is possible. 200 bad days on the same topic? Unlikely. In fact, we did a basic statistical model and found the odds of having “a bad day” on 200 or more unique days exactly when a particular topic being discussed was… some big number. Excel showed one of those 1e12 things and we just moved on.

Back to Why You’re Here.

So we ran the data. The methodology is important, which we’ll explain in detail:

  • Eliminate Bias. To remove bias, we selected only topics that Trump has discussed publicly 200 or more times, according to our database. Every one of those topics / subjects was checked and is reflected below.
  • Find Midpoint. For each interview, speech, event, and so on, an individual middle (median) point was established for just Trump’s voice. So if he was having a relaxed day, we measured when topics moved the stress above or below that midpoint. If he was having a bad day, same thing.
  • Phrase subjectivity. For phrases, we freely admit this was subjective. We checked our database for frequently used phrases and it found thousands. It’s a literal beast, so “I am going” appears in the list of three-word phrases. We punted and googled “Trump catch phrases” and selected about a dozen. We made a subjective choice to add “Make America Great Again” into the mix, as well as “Thanks”, “Thank You”, “God Bless You” and “God Bless America” into our checks, based on the findings in our topical analysis.
  • “You’re Fired” We eliminated “You’re fired” since most of the references were short, pre-recorded clips from the television show vs. a real-world situation.
  • Short Segments. We eliminated any segment less than four seconds long, as that can add anomalous spikes, and we want the phrase or topic in context.
  • Sample size. This got us to 170.23 hours of video, spanning 30,899 unique segments (1- to 3-word sentences are a unit in our database based on size), from 1980 through this week, covering 1,634,208 words.
  • <nerd>This then fed into our algorithm, which is an Adaptive Empirical Mode Decomposition (AEMD) process, to check for deviations outside of 8-12Hz. This is widely recognized as the normal frequency range to monitor. When it goes above 12Hz, it’s considered stress…</nerd>
  • A reminder… but again, we use the midpoint from a particular event, to account for the fact that being President probably is stress in and of itself.

One note: you will see topics on the table below with less than 200 citations. Our check of topics included print interviews, his writings and tweets, indicating it is a topic he frequently discusses, but may be represented less than 200 times in the audio and video.

And from that data…

Back to the Lede

Trump is clearly, statistically, uncomfortable expressing gratitude. When he thanks people, based on 67 unique segments where thanking someone was the topic, and another 105 phrase references to thanking someone, he is consistently at an elevated stress level, indicating anxiety.

Similarly, when discussing God as a topic (424 unique segments), he is also uncomfortable, with his voice indicating stress and anxiety well above the midpoint established contextually in the conversation. Note this is specific to discussing God, vs any particular religion or religion itself.

Rounding out the top list of uncomfortable topics and phrases:

  • Make America Great Again” (32 segments)
  • Build the Wall” / “Build That Wall” (153 segments)
  • The White House (as an institution – 323 segments)
  • Veterans (402 segments)
  • Law Enforcement (194 segments)
  • The Wall (as a topic – 790 segments)

Okay, but what puts him at ease? On what topics is he comfortable?
The top of the list is what our system classified as “inner cities” but in looking at specific references, it’s discussions of urban planning, cities and infrastructure. He’s well below the stress midpoint when on this topic (145 references). A good number of these references were in interviews pre-dating his Presidency as well.

The Middle East is strongly represented on the list of topics where he is comfortable: Iraq (420 references), Iran (406 references), Syria (281 references) and the Middle East in general (305 references) are all points where he is clearly relaxed and not anxious when discussing.

Rounding out this list of topics where he is comfortable:

  • War (248 references)
  • The New York Times (89 references)
  • Terrorism (366 references)
  • A lot of money” (275 references)
  • Many many” (126 references)

So was there anything else surprising?

Personally, for me, there were a few things, but the world doesn’t need another opinion right now, so take a look at the data below and decide for yourself. If you disagree with anything in the methodology, let us know. But be warned: we make available all our data on request, and will continue to do so. If you disagree with the points above, we’re happy to send you the algo and all the underlying data for you to verify the results for yourself, or to run through a different process. The world not needing another opinion doesn’t just apply to me :-). We’re all about data and verifiable facts at, so you’re welcome to think we’re wrong, but be ready for us to challenge you to prove we’re wrong.


[Click to Enlarge]


Topic / Phrase Deviation Score # of Segments Length of Segments [HH:MM:SS]
Phrase: “God Bless You”, “God Bless America” 1.4990 159 01:03:30
Phrase: “Thanks”, “Thank you” 1.3732 105 00:37:33
Phrase: “Make America Great Again” 1.1865 32 00:03:45
Thanks / Thanking Someone 0.9275 67 00:30:36
God 0.7604 424 02:54:00
Phrase: “Build the Wall” / “Build that Wall” 0.6085 153 00:41:48
The White House 0.6006 323 02:09:06
Veterans 0.5056 402 02:17:28
Law Enforcement 0.4312 194 01:31:37
The Wall 0.3307 790 02:57:00
Education 0.2488 371 01:40:01
Illegal Immigration 0.2254 109 00:46:39
North Carolina 0.2074 228 01:17:23
Phrase: “Believe Me” 0.2056 834 04:38:59
Phrase: “Sad”, “So Sad” 0.1921 456 02:52:36
Obamacare 0.1822 800 04:36:54
Senate 0.1538 182 01:07:52
United States 0.1529 3128 21:07:33
Congress 0.1500 297 02:15:39
Records 0.1378 181 01:03:20
Washington 0.1240 420 02:41:43
Iowa 0.1189 324 01:19:37
Phrase: “Winning” 0.1117 444 01:43:23
Israel 0.1080 186 01:24:48
Donald Trump 0.0908 573 02:20:56
Polls 0.0792 388 01:36:50
ISIS 0.0757 727 03:51:00
North Korea 0.0650 122 00:49:56
American People 0.0545 275 02:12:24
Campaign 0.0401 525 03:06:03
Health Care 0.0353 220 01:27:06
Florida 0.0251 412 01:45:09
Mexico 0.0114 1102 04:21:13
Special Interests 0.0086 183 01:28:37
Security -0.0107 313 02:14:26
Russia -0.0290 272 01:33:35
Politicians -0.0354 651 02:55:25
Democrats -0.0367 392 02:20:09
New Hampshire -0.0513 308 01:14:53
Phrase: “Tremendous” -0.0525 1099 06:09:35
Trump Administration -0.0567 692 05:02:17
Law -0.0577 211 01:18:52
China -0.0674 1359 05:21:54
Phrase: “Huge” -0.0723 112 00:34:09
New York -0.0747 440 02:00:39
Media -0.0759 373 02:18:02
Drugs -0.0771 385 01:59:19
Hillary Clinton -0.0971 2690 15:17:47
NAFTA -0.1140 320 01:51:19
Republicans -0.1184 454 02:12:58
Numbers -0.1231 483 02:18:55
Trade -0.1232 693 02:56:48
Ohio -0.1351 332 01:50:52
Border -0.1359 1094 05:55:57
Jobs -0.1366 2158 12:08:53
Barack Obama -0.1440 1231 07:09:13
Japan -0.1742 435 01:25:26
Future -0.1871 299 02:20:56
Phrase: “Many Many” -0.1990 126 00:16:37
Phrase: “A Lot of Money” -0.2124 275 01:16:13
Terrorism -0.2229 366 02:44:03
Middle East -0.2260 305 02:02:45
Syria -0.2381 281 01:47:01
The New York Times -0.2714 89 00:36:41
War -0.2890 248 01:33:08
Iran -0.2923 406 02:12:54
Iraq -0.4850 420 02:09:44
Infrastructure / City Planning -0.6432 145 01:09:01

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